"I’ve finished the murder dinner," Daisy said.
"Huh?" David dragged his gaze away from his plate and his mind from the Jenkins account and looked blankly at his wife.
"I said," Daisy said patiently, "that I’ve finished the murder dinner."
"What? Oh, that thing you were writing. Well done dear." David returned his attention to his dinner and his mind wandered back to the Jenkins account, his thoughts stopping on the way to mentally remember and admire the legs on Caroline Jenkins.
Daisy rolled her eyes. Typical of David to dismiss anything she did so casually. She’d spent hours constructing the plot of the game and hoped to sell the whole caboodle to one of the companies that produced a Murder Dinner range. She just needed to try it out first. Stupid of her to expect support from David though; he hadn’t shown an interest in anything she’d done since she’d popped out Emma and Jason more than seventeen years ago. Come to think of it he hadn’t been that supportive then either, he’d turned up late for the twins’ delivery, grinned at them, kissed her on the cheek and told her she’d done well, and then he’d scooted off down the pub to celebrate with his mates.
"I thought we’d invite Tom and Susie," she said, determined to get David to talk to her.
"What?" David looked up again and reluctantly pushed thoughts of accounts and associated legs to one side. "Oh, to this murder thing."
"Yes. And Laurie and Pam. That’ll make six, so we’ll need another couple."
"Louise and Adam?" David suggested, pushing his now empty plate away.
"Hmm, good suggestion, David. Especially as Louise is French."
"What difference does that make?"
"It’s set in France, didn’t I tell you?" Daisy stood up and gathered the plates together.
"Have you thought about what you’re going to cook?" David asked, getting up as well.
"Onion soup to start, Boeuf Bourguignonne for the main course, and then apple tart, followed by a cheese board of french cheeses."
"Do you think that’s wise?" David asked.
"Wise? What do you mean?" Daisy asked.
"Well, with Louise being French, it might not be sensible to cook a french menu that Louise could probably prepare while standing on her head."
Daisy slammed the plates back on the table.
"David, are you saying that I can’t cook?"
"No, of course, not. I’m just saying – well," David shrugged his shoulders, "Louise grew up with these foods; she’s bound to be better at making those particular dishes than you are. It’s just a matter of experience."
"Rubbish. Just … just …" Daisy waved David out of the room. "Oh, go and boil your head."
David gave her a withering glance and left the room.
Well, she deserved that, she thought as she loaded the dish-washer. Surely she could have done better than ‘go and boil your head’. Where had that come from?
Once she’d cleared away the pots and pans from dinner Daisy sat at the kitchen table and wrote the invitations to their guests. She’d worked out earlier in the day who was to play which character; she’d known even then that David would suggest Adam and Louise as the final couple.
Daisy thought that the parts allocated to each guests were tailor made - well, they were, of course. Tom and Susie were playing the elderly servants, both past their prime but with willing hearts. A little on the plump side from lack of exercise and consequently a touch slow, both in their movements and their speech.
Laurie and Pam were cast as the young musicians; Pam was a cellist and Laurie a pianist.
Adam and Louise played a French baron and a French tart respectively. Perfect casting, Daisy thought as she let them into the house on the evening of the murder dinner. Adam, with his slight beer belly which spoke of rich food and expensive wine, and Louise with her ‘little black number’ with its scooping neckline, low-cut back and mini skirt, looked every inch the characters that they were playing – and they were wearing their normal clothes!
Daisy chuckled to herself as she ushered them into the living room where David was handing round drinks. Her husband was playing the wealthy aristocrat, and she his wife, entertaining in their French chateau. The fictitious murdered person was her father. Every character had a motive and an opportunity, she’d seen to that. It just remained to be seen if all the relevant clues could be dragged out over the course of the evening.
The motives for both her and her aristocratic husband were obvious – inheritance. The chateau was expensive to run and money was running out, whereas the "dead" man had been loaded and all his wealth would be left to his daughter.
The dead man had been an entrepeneur, and when the musicians, played by Laurie and Pam, had approached him with a view to producing a classical musical featuring the music of many of the great composers, he’d been enthusiastic and promised his backing. After the musicians had used their savings to support them while they took a sabbatical in which to write the musical he had pulled out, saying that he no longer felt that the idea was viable. Revenge, then, was their motive.
The servants had been "let go" by their previous employer. He was, he had told them, moving in some younger staff. After a lifetime spent in his service on poor wages, they now had nowhere to live and no money to live on.
The French tart had, inevitably, been having an affair with the dead man. When she had suggested that she would leave her husband if marriage was on offer she had been told in no uncertain terms to ‘sling her hook’. She was, she was informed, good for an easy lay, but not someone who would look good on the arm of an influential man. Besides, it was obvious that while a title was nice to have, money was better, and it was obvious that the tart had already spent the Baron’s fortune. Revenge again, then – ‘a woman scorned’. And the Baron’s motive was simply that he had found out about his wife’s affair.
There were other little touches, of course, other motives which, if revealed, would muddy the waters.
Daisy was pleased with the way that the game moved on. The guests played their parts well and all the relevant clues and pieces of information were revealed. Everyone complimented her on the food she served up except, she noticed, David and Louise. No surprise there, then.
Eventually they reached the last round of the game. Time to make the accusations. Accusations began with the person on Daisy’s left – Tom, and went round the table, each person saying who they thought the murderer was, and why.
Daisy was the last to speak.
"Well," she said, standing up. She faced Louise. "I know," she spat, "about your affair with my husband." She looked at David "And you," she said, "I know exactly what you’ve been up to."
David and Louise exchanged glances, She could hear them thinking What’s she on about? What is it that she thinks she knows?
"And," Daisy continued, "If you noticed, I didn’t put the soup on the table for you to help yourselves as I usually would; I served it up in the kitchen and brought it in already in the bowls. Of course, if you –" she jabbed a finger at David, "had helped me, instead of leaving me to to all the work while you relaxed in here, I wouldn’t have been able to put the poison in your soup."
"Yes, Louise, poison. Slow-working, but you should be feeling the effects," Daisy looked at her watch, "any minute now."
"David!" Louise shrieked and grabbed David’s arm. "What has she done? You told me she didn’t know about us." She grabbed her stomach. "Oh, God, I feel ill." Bent over, Louise rushed from the room. David glared round the table before jumping up and running after her.
Daisy ran her fingers through her hair. "Ooops," she said, "I forgot to call them by their character’s names."
There was a stunned silence around the table.
"You mean that was part of the play?" Susan asked breathlessly.
Daisy nodded. "Of course. You don’t think – " she burst out laughing. "You didn’t really think that I’d poisoned their soup, did you?"
There was a round of nervous giggles.
"Oh, dear, I’d better go and see what’s happening to David and Louise." Daisy left the room and found Louise in David’s arms in the kitchen.
"You stupid bitch," David snarled at Daisy. "Look what you’ve done."
"Me?" Daisy said indignantly, "I don’t think that I’ve done anything wrong. It’s you – or rather her –" she pointed at Louise "who has just admitted in front of all our friends, that you and she are having an affair. It’s not my fault if she’s so stupid that she can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and it’s not my fault if she’s dumb enough to think that I’d poison her and then admit it in front of her husband and our friends."
"Talking of Adam," David said, "Where is he?"
"I would imagine that he’s trying to play the part of the cuckolded husband, without losing any of his dignity," I replied. "And I suggest that the two of you pull yourselves together and return to the dining room as soon as possible."
I left the kitchen, pulling the door to behind me – not slamming it, you notice. In the hall I passed Adam. I let out a shriek when he pinched my bum. "You clever little minx," he whispered. "Now we’re in the clear and David and Louise look as guilty as hell."
"Told you I could," I said. "Everyone will think now that we’ve turned to each other for comfort."
He kissed me lightly on the lips and headed off to take care of his wife.